LifeLock Ultimate Plus Identity Protection: Pricey but Not Perfect

LifeLock's Ultimate Plus plan may be among the most expensive ways to protect your identity, but the cost is arguably worth it, because LifeLock provides comprehensive monitoring against fraud and identity theft, with a rich assortment of features and a user-friendly interface.

It monitors three credit bureaus and will spend up to $1 million to restore your identity, including reimbursement of stolen funds, although it provides monthly credit scores from only one bureau. LifeLock also monitors investment and retirement accounts for suspicious activities, which few other identity-protection services do.

In early 2017, LifeLock was acquired by information-security giant Symantec. For a few extra dollars a month, you can get Symantec's Norton antivirus software along with your LifeLock subscription.



Symantec's reputation may help LifeLock solve long-standing concerns about how the service safeguards user data, which led the Federal Trade Commission to fine the company twice in the past decade. Hopefully, Symantec will also force LifeLock to implement two-factor authentication on its website, as a couple of other identity-protection services have begun to do.

It's also worth noting that LifeLock has far more complaints with the Better Business Bureau than similar services. That may be partly due to LifeLock's predominance in the market.

I signed up for LifeLock's most expensive plan in the fall of 2017, along with those of five other identity-protection services, and used each concurrently for three months. To make sure I had an unbiased experience, I personally paid for each service and did not tell any of the bureaus that I was writing a review.

Cost and What's Covered

At $10 per month ($110 a year, with a 10-percent discount for the first year for Tom's Guide readers), LifeLock's entry-level Standard subscription plan includes the basics, such as credit monitoring and lost wallet protection. But it limits the credit score reports you can see to those from one bureau (Equifax), and caps the LifeLock insurance payment you can receive at $25,000.

The $20-per-month ($220 a year, again discounted 10 percent for the first year for Tom's Guide readers) LifeLock Advantage plan adds features such as bank monitoring, criminal-activity alerts and notification of data breaches. It has a $100,000 cap for reimbursement of stolen funds and costs of repairing your credit.

At the top of the heap is LifeLock's Ultimate Plus plan ($30 per month, or $330 a year, also with a 10-percent Tom's Guide discount), which adds three-bureau credit monitoring as well as an insurance cap of $1 million for the reimbursement of stolen assets and the cost of restoring your identity.

LifeLock has excellent monitoring of credit reports and scores from the Big Three U.S. credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Ultimate Plus also provides alerts if it senses your investment accounts are being tampered with (as long as the financial companies involved are part of LifeLock's "network" of cooperating institutions), and offers priority support.

Like its rival Identity Guard, LifeLock adds sales tax to the cost of its subscription services. LifeLock charged me, a New York State resident, a sales tax of 8 percent — Identity Guard charged 7 percent — which came up to an extra $2.20 per month.

There's no family plan, but for $6 a month or $66 a year, LifeLock offers a Junior plan for minor children of subscribers that mirrors the Ultimate Plus protection. A $20-per-month Senior plan is actually aimed at the children of the elderly, who might want to monitor their parents' identity and credit and get alerts about them.

LifeLock now offers Norton antivirus software as an optional add-on. The software costs an extra $3 per month for LifeLock Standard and an extra $5 per month for LifeLock Advantage and Ultimate Plus, but as of this writing, those extra costs were waived.

The antivirus software, which has excellent defenses against malware but not many extra features, includes coverage for up to five PCs, Macs or Android devices. The closest retail equivalent, Norton Security Deluxe, is listed at $90 per year, but can often be found for less.

MORE: Best Identity Theft Protection Services - How We Tested and Rated

Of the six identity-protection services I reviewed, LifeLock is the only one that didn't have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau in January 2018, and was one of only two that wasn't BBB accredited. (The other was IDShield's parent company, LegalShield.)

Instead, LifeLock has a B rating. That is due to an overwhelming number of customer complaints about LifeLock that have been filed with the BBB — more than 160 at last count — as well as a $100 million fine levied against LifeLock in 2015 by the Federal Trade Commission for not adequately protecting customer data, in accordance with the terms of a 2010 agreement with the federal agency.

Few people go to the BBB to say nice things about a company. But the sheer number of complaints about LifeLock on the BBB site might give you pause about whether to sign up for the service.

Many of the negative reviews involved poor customer service, but a worrisome number were written by people who said LifeLock had simply failed to notify them of bank account changes, stolen credit cards, changes of address, large purchases and other incidents for which alerts should have been sent. A significant number of complainants said that LifeLock had been deceptive in promising which services it offered, and the word "scam" was used several times.

Credit Scores and Monitoring

LifeLock monitors credit files and scores from the Big Three U.S. credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you want a composite credit score that gives a good single-number indication of creditworthiness, LifeLock will give you one from Vantage (run by the Big Three) rather than from the independent company FICO.

However, LifeLock gets you new, full-credit reports only once a year from each of the Big Three. You could do the same thing for free at annualcreditreport.com. LifeLock does give you a new Equifax credit score each month.

LifeLock scans both the "surface" internet and online crime bazaars for signs that your personal information might be out in the wild. Besides looking for your Social Security number and address changes, it scans 401(k) plans and other retirement plans and investment accounts, as well as indications that user data may have been involved in a crime.

LifeLock's Privacy Monitor keeps you one step ahead of identity thieves by monitoring online personal-search services, like Intelius and Spokeo. LifeLock lets you suppress or remove information from those services as well.

The deeper I dug into LifeLock, the more information I discovered about myself. In the Accounts section, I found a credit card for a furniture store that I used once 25 years ago.

One thing LifeLock doesn't have is a simulator that lets you see how you might improve your credit score, such as by paying off your credit card bills. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it was a nice feature that other identity-protection services offered.

Nor does LifeLock offer two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires anyone logging in from a new computer to provide a separate code, usually sent to the user's mobile phone or generated by a special mobile app, alongside the regular password. However, a LifeLock representative said the LifeLock mobile apps support fingerprint authentication, and that "implementing two-factor authentication for LifeLock is a priority."

Most major online services, including Facebook and Google, have adopted 2FA as essential to protecting customer accounts, and it's surprising that few identity-protection services have joined them. (IdentityForce and ID Watchdog do offer 2FA.)

LifeLock does give you the option of creating a telephone password so that you can verify it's you when you call the company with a question or problem regarding your account. Many banks offer voice passwords as well.

Insurance and Services

LifeLock Ultimate Plus provides up to $1 million dollars for remediation and restoration of your stolen identity, matching the limit set by other premium identity-protection services except ID-Shield, which has a $5 million cap. But LifeLock (and IdentityForce and Identity Guard) will reimburse you for financial losses incurred during an incident of identity theft, while IDShield won't.

MORE: Identity Theft vs. Credit-Card Theft: What's the Difference?

The insurance also covers the cost of hiring the lawyers, investigators and identity-theft experts who will form a dedicated team to help limit the damage, whose progress you can check on in the LifeLock interface. If you've ever had your identity stolen, you'll know how much of a draining, drawn-out chore restoring your credit can be.        

Notifications and Alerts

LifeLock's alerts are among the best and most thorough in the business. As expected, you'll get reviews of bank account and credit card activity, but you can also set LifeLock to alert you to a large purchase.

LifeLock Ultimate Plus can cancel your credit cards if you lose your wallet, inform you of recent data breaches and alert you if a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood.

These alerts show up either through the service's online page or its mobile apps. You can add text-message, email or phone-call notifications as an option for when you're on the go.

LifeLock's alerts are among the best and most thorough in the business.

Over the course of nearly three months, LifeLock sent me 18 notifications, none of them indicating a problem. Most were about credit updates and recent data breaches, but some were annoying promotions for Norton products.

Setup

Getting LifeLock set up took a little under 6 minutes, making it the fastest identity-protection service to get me up and running. (The average setup time was 12 minutes.) The web-based interface for desktop computers means that there's no LifeLock program to download or install. Instead, everything is done through an encrypted HTTPS session.

After entering my date of birth and Social Security number, I typed in my credit card information and then set up account credentials. Unfortunately, while I was trying to type in a password, LifeLock's data-entry screen didn't work on three attempts.

On my fourth try, it worked fine and also let me enter my mobile phone number for text alerts. At the end of the process, LifeLock gave me a tour of the service and its interface.

However, in order to monitor my bank and investment accounts, the site asked me for corresponding account numbers and online passwords. If LifeLock were to suffer a data breach of its own, losing control of this information might be catastrophic for my financial health. In this light, LifeLock's past tussles with the Federal Trade Commission aren't reassuring.

MORE: How to Protect Your Identity, Personal Data and Property

As part of Symantec, LifeLock can draw upon the parent company's excellent support resources, which for the Ultimate Plus plan include priority response in an emergency. Any LifeLock customer can call the company toll-free at any time, night or day, and also read security tips and watch informational videos.

Soon after I set up LifeLock, I emailed its support people asking whether my information was part of the Experian data breach. I got a generic reply about what to do if my personal data were breached and phone numbers for the credit bureaus, but I didn't receive any specific advice.

Getting LifeLock set up took a little under 6 minutes, making it the fastest identity-protection service to get me up and running.

It was a snap to end my LifeLock subscription: I simply clicked a link in the web interface. I got a confirmation email 10 hours later that the subscription had been canceled.

Interface and Utilities

If you use a PC or Mac to access your LifeLock account, alerts and information, you'll need to log onto the web interface by entering your credentials in a field in the upper-right corner of the company's website. LifeLock tries to squeeze a lot into a small screen, and users of systems with low-resolution displays — such as mine — will have to scroll up and down quite a bit.

Still, LifeLock's website design is one of the best among identity-protection services providers. The Dashboard shows alerts and your current, combined credit score and lets you add other accounts. If you're unlucky enough to need LifeLock's identity-restoration services, you can see the status of the process and interact with company personnel.

LifeLock's reporting can nonetheless be confusing. For instance, the Age of Credit section showed information about my new mortgage, but two of the three credit agencies had listed it with a baffling acronym of the bank's name. The third agency used the bank's full name.

LifeLock also has Android and iOS mobile apps. The Android one loaded easily on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and once I logged in, I could see my overall alerts. The Android app did everything the online interface could do.

Bottom Line

LifeLock provided an informative number of alerts, and I got the impression that my accounts and credit files were being well-monitored. I also liked the interface and the composite credit score.

But at $30 a month, the Ultimate Plus plan is the most expensive I tried, and the costs would add up quickly for a family seeking identity protection. IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit provides a similar level of service for a lower cost.

Credit: Tom's Guide

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